CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Fire Fight At Airport
Aired April 4, 2003 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Daryn Kagan live from Kuwait City. Let's take a look at what is happening at this hour. There is a dramatic nighttime fire fight at the Baghdad airport, that is where Iraqi troops tried desperately to stop U.S. forces in a battle to seize this key site. It's unclear if the U.S. has full control of the airport, just 12 miles from Baghdad.
Now far from that airport, the 3-7th Calvary engaged in a tank battle, which proved costly for Iraqi troops, 400 of them were killed.
It's now about 10:00 a.m. in Baghdad, but earlier this morning the loudspeakers for the Muslim call to prayers were silenced by a power outage. Not clear if the electricity was knocked out by U.S. bombs or if it was turned off by the Iraqi regime. The Pentagon says coalition forces did not target the city's power system.
The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the budget proposal to pay the initial cost of war in Iraq. The tab is about $80 billion. Earlier in the evening, the Senate unanimously passed its own version of an $80 billion war budget.
Today, will be another day in the operating room for rescued POW Jessica Lynch who is said to be in great spirits despite her condition. Her father says she underwent surgery to relieve pressure on her back on Thursday. Today's operations will address her broken limbs. Like her broken legs, as she supposedly suffered when she was shot during that attack.
And just for a moment to get away from all of the intense war news, let's take a look at an Associated Press study about Major League Baseball. It shows the average player's salary rose to over $2.5 million this season. The New York Yankees have the top team payroll in the game, $150 million a year. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays have the smallest, $19.6 million.
And here's a good comparison for you, baseball's highest paid player Alex Rodriguez of the Texas Rangers pulled down $22 million a year, that's more than the entire Tampa Bay team.
Those are the headlines at this hour. Aaron, as I toss it back to you, I hope we're going to have time in the next half, I was able to cover a really interesting rally here in Kuwait City last night, probably the only place in the Arab world where you will see a pro-war rally. Good pictures to bring you in the next half hour.
AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Daryn, I hope that we have time for that, too. We'll see how things shake out. It certainly hasn't been the day or the night that we thought it would be as we came on the air around 10:00 Eastern time, American forces were just getting control, formally getting control of the airport, Saddam International Airport, just outside of Baghdad. As we have said a number of times now, this is important strategically. It is also important psychologically to the regime and to the people, the regime controls. In both matter, in the context of day's ahead, what the people of the Iraqi capital do, whether they follow what their government tells them to do or whether they stay out of the way so that the coalition, which in this case really is just Americans, can come in, will determine how difficult, how bloody the end game is.
That's a small picture of what has been a complicated day. Not an easy day for the coalition. We want to, for those of you who just may be joining us, give you a broad look of how the day began. It ended at the airport.
BROWN (voice-over): As the lights were turned now Baghdad, intentionally, perhaps, by the Iraqi government, American troops moved ever closer to the capital. Some units, according to the Pentagon, are at city's main international airport. And air assaults, too, continued to hit the city.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a rocket coming our way. Fire and loose over the shoulder. There's a rocket dropping over our right shoulder.
BROWN: The Army's 3rd Division, 7th Calvary with whom CNN's Walter Rodgers is embedded crept nearer and nearer to Baghdad. Tanks and armored vehicles drove past the wreckage of Iraqi tanks, largely unopposed, much to the satisfaction of the secretary of defense.
DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: They've taken several outlawing areas and are closer to the center of the Iraqi capital than many American commuters are from their downtown offices.
BROWN: A statement denied no matter how improbably by the Iraqi Minister of Information, just before the power went out.
MOHAMMED SAEED AL-SAHAF, IRAQI INFORMATION MINISTER: They are not near Baghdad, don't believe them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They reported to be trapped, could they be trapped?
AL-SAHAF: They are trapped everywhere in the country.
BROWN: To the south of the Iraqi capital, elements of the 101st Airborne found themselves momentarily trapped in the crowded streets of Najaf, with the gold dome of the Ali mosque in the distance, a mosque sacred to Shiite Muslims, angry crowds surrounded a small patrol. They believed the Americans were heading for the mosque. They were not. They were en route instead to a meeting with mosque's leader. CNN's Ryan Chilcote was in the middle. RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No one apparently told the crowd of the soldiers' intentions. And as you can probably see from this video, complete chaos ensued.
BROWN: The troops withdrew and the meeting rescheduled. To the east of Baghdad, not far from the Iraqi city of Kut, marines took away stack of rifles as they moved through the town. And to ensure they would not be used again an American tank went to work. From U.S. Central Command, some new and intriguing pictures. Here American special forces raid one of Saddam Hussein's many palaces about 50 miles north of Baghdad. Nobody home. But commanders say some documents were seized, and American troops also seized an important dam, before it could be destroyed by Iraqi troops.
New video, too, of that rescue of Private First class Jessica lynch. You can see her being carried down the stairs of that hospital where she was found, then loaded into the waiting helicopter. Her family says she is doing as well as can be expected.
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I actually assisted in that particular operation. The mother was also operated on for a significant abdominal injury.
BROWN: And a side story of war. In a field hospital in central Iraq, CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who is a neurosurgeon, was called in to help when an Iraqi infant was wounded during an incident at an American checkpoint. Tragically, the child later died.
Northern Iraq saw more fighting, here a Kurdish patrol accompanied by a small group of U.S. special forces found themselves in a fire fight with Iraqi soldiers. American planes were called in on the Iraqi positions. And at opposite end of country in Basra, the British were probing Iraqi defenses inside the city, but as of yet, have not entered. And about those two American aircraft lost yesterday, there is a suggestion now that the F-18 off the carrier Kitty Hawk may have been downed by friendly fire, a Patriot missile. And the cause of that Black Hawk helicopter crash continues to be investigated.
BROWN: That's a broad look at the day. This came across our desk a little while ago. I haven't been able to get it in. We got a moment here. We've hardly talked much about the story of Private First Class Jessica Lynch who continues to recover from a hospital in Germany. There's been more reporting. And the reporting has actually been done by an army sergeant who's, I gather, with "Armed Forces" newspaper. It turns out, in his reporting, and there is some support in this, that this never would have happened, this rescue would have never happened were not for an Iraqi lawyer in Nasiriya who had gone to the hospital to visit his wife who was in the hospital, and became away that there were more soldiers, more security there than normal. And he asked, why? And was told because there was an American female, prisoner, being held there.
And the man then walked ten miles down the road to where the American troops were, and told them of this. And the Americans asked him, the American marines asked him to go back and -- and be with her and gather more information. At one point, he describes being in a room with Private Lynch and some of her people who had taken her captive. And they're talking about amputating her leg. And he leans over to her and says in English, "Don't worry, it won't happen." And she smiles according to this account. But, apparently, none of this would have happened, this dramatic rescue, if not for an Iraqi citizen who made it possible.
To the south, we go, to Baghdad. Marines of the 1st Battalion, the 7th marines have crossed the Tigris River and turned toward Baghdad. CNN's Martin Savidge was with them as they fought their way through the city of Al Kut.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: As the unit moves in, they find an old city teaming with life and all seems calm, but that will change. On the outskirts of the city, as they close on a Republican Guard position, the men of Charlie & Company come under attack, small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades. The marines return fire with their M-16s and their heavier guns on the APCs. A blazing gun battle erupts.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get back.
SAVIDGE: At first there is chaos and shouting, but soon, training kicks in. As the source of the gunfire is located and support fire is called in. Rockets, artillery and air power strike. Charlie Company rolls through a now deserted Republican Guard base. The troops behind them will search it more carefully, but Charlie can't wait, the second objective an Iraqi air base lies just ahead. On the outskirts, Iraqi bunkers already hit by artillery, boil like volcanoes, self-destructing as the ammunition inside them explodes.
The men waste no time watching, they move on, pausing only to open fire on Iraqi radar arrays. Eventually, the marines push out on foot, and this is the most dangerous part of any mission. Moving in teams the squads probe Iraqi bunkers on the air base's perimeter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Set the traps.
SAVIDGE: Once on the base itself, they make forced entries into the complexes many buildings. Doors that can't be kicked open are shot until their locks give way. The first weapons are found.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have an AK-47, not loaded.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where did you find them?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I found these right underneath these trees.
We've been finding a lot of these weapons abandoned.
SAVIDGE: Offices are searched offering a wealth of documents. The base is empty, but the troops discover an armory stacked, floor to ceiling with weapons. They carry them out by the armload like bundles of wood. So many guns, the challenge becomes how to destroy them all. But soon the might of Saddam Hussein's military is ground beneath the weight of tank tracks. The job becomes an assembly line of destruction. What cannot be crushed is simply doused with gasoline, and set on fire. Then, the marines leave.
Martin Savidge, CNN with the 1st Battalion 7th Marines, Al Kut, Iraq.
BROWN: Traveling father south now where British forces continue moving closer and closer, though patiently to Basra, the country's second-largest city. Trying to convince the citizens that they come offering security, and friendship and food and water. The story from British pool reporter Tim Ewart.
TIM EWART, ITV NEWS (voice-over): There was more gunfire around Basra today as British troops moved inextricably towards the city's center. Snipers claim three kills, hitting Iraqi artillery controllers 700 meters away. And Royal Engineers worked under fire to douse oil pipelines set ablaze by retreating Iraqi troops.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is your country, and we don't want to take it. We want to give it back to you.
EWART: In nearby Al-Zubaya the commander of British forces was on a personal mission to win hearts and minds. The reception we got here was a hail of bullet and rocket attacks. We can now come here on our feet, we talk to the people. The reception has been excellent everywhere where I have been.
SAVIDGE: But at Al-Zubaya hospital, the prevailing mood remains one of fear and uncertainty. A mood captured by the hospital's director. Saddam Hussein is my president, he told me.
For how long do you think?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know.
SAVIDGE: But until then, you will keep this photograph?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unless it is withdrawn by armed force.
SAVIDGE: Where upon a British officer promptly removed the presidential portrait, that had downed the director's office.
(on camera): British troops control the streets of Al-Zubaya, but not yet the hearts and minds of the people. Iraqis are living with an invading army, but Saddam Hussein is still their president. For the moment, they don't know what the future will hold.
(voice-over): As Basra burned, these fighters opted for surrender. The fall of their city seems inevitable. The timing is in British hands.
Tim Ewart, ITV News, southern Iraq.
BROWN: From the south to the north, we'll be joined by CNN's Brent Sadler. A break first. Our coverage continues in a moment.
BROWN: We spent most of the night from Baghdad south, where we go to northern Iraq, much has happened there since we last talked to CNN's Brent Sadler, and Brent joins us now. Brent, good morning.
BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, good morning, Aaron. That startling push on Saddam Hussein International Airport is being haled by Iraqi Kurdish leaders here as passing a critical threshold in the war to defeat Saddam Hussein. Those same leaders are also saying that the Baghdad regime could collapse like a house of cards. Especially, if more pressure is put on Saddam Hussein's army in the north of Iraq mainly defending those key cities of Kirkuk and Mosul. Meanwhile, one of the top Iraqi Kurdish leaders has received a direct warning to stay out of the fight.
SADLER (voice-over): This is Iraqi-Kurdish leader Saddam Hussein is trying to turn against the U.S.-led invasion, urging veteran guerrilla commander Jalal al-Talabani to abandon has armed support for the coalition. Mr. Talabani, though, is turning a deaf ear, meeting the needs of his American allies instead. Working out new ways in which Iraq's armed opposition groups can help support the war. For Saddam Hussein, he has an uncompromising return message.
JALAL AL-TALABANI, IRAQI-KURDISH LEADER: He wants to persuade me not to join actively with the American forces. Second, a threat. If do you it, you will hold responsibilities and consequences will be very bad. Something like this.
SADLER: Are you listening?
TALABANI: I am listening to his words, but I will reply to him very well that, please, resign and escape, and rescue Iraqi people by your resignation.
SADLER: No one here expects the Iraqi leader to surrender power that easily. So Iraq's opposition holds a council of war. Mapping out detailed proposals to push for a second front to smash Saddam Hussein's army in the north, already on the run from many frontline positions.
TALABANI: We the Iraqi people, together with the American liberators, and the British liberators, we can achieve the task of getting rid of Saddam Hussein and his terrorist allies.
SADLER: It's a strategy that's already worked on a smaller scale last week. When U.S. special forces and Peshmerga Kurdish fighters wiped out Islamic extremists in a joint offensive, and perhaps explains why these American war planners now seem to be listening closely to the ideas of their armed, mainly Kurdish Iraqi allies.
(END VIDEOTAPE) SADLER: I also understand, Aaron, that some of the top commanders from the Iraqi Kurds and other opposition groups are going to Central Command to discuss this planning further. The Iraqi opposition wants to get into the fight, also wants to get into the cities in north of Iraq to be able to try and attempt to bring about uprisings, to get the people of Iraq to understand it's not just American liberators and British liberators moving into Iraq, it's Iraqis going hand-in-hand with them. And that's the message they want to get through from here -- Aaron.
BROWN: That is a very simple question. Are we to believe this man you just profiled talked directly to Saddam Hussein, and when did this conversation take place?
SADLER: Just backtrack a little bit, Aaron, 48 hours ago, Mohammed Saeed Al Sahaf, the Iraqi information minister, at one of his live press conferences, read out a message from Saddam Hussein, directing those warnings, that attempt to turn Talibani through that press conference. It wasn't direct ear to ear. It was through the information minister. Talibani responded. And you know the rest.
BROWN: I got it. Brent, thank you very much. Brent Sadler who is dealing with the northern part of Iraq.
Rym Brahimi keeps tracks of events in Baghdad, although she is no longer allowed to be in Baghdad. She along with Nic Robertson and their crews were expelled, so Rym was keeping an eye on Baghdad from Amman, Jordan, and working the phones. Nice to see you this morning.
RYM BRAHIMI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Same here, Aaron. Well, as you can tell by the pictures we're going to show you a lot of explosions over the Iraqi capital at night, just as U.S. forces were making their approach to Saddam international airport on the outskirts of Baghdad. It's about ten kilometers west of Baghdad. It's just a 25-minute drive. On the way to the city to the airport, you pass a huge presidential palace belonging to President Saddam Hussein, definitely a key strategic area that's been taken by the explosion forces. It will allow them probably to use it as a staging ground to launch operations from there. Also, it will be useful to allow them to bring in some humanitarian supplies and be able to channel them directly through the city.
That said, there's still a lot to do. A lot of questions over what's happening in Baghdad. Well, we understand from our sources, Aaron, that civilians are not able to least Iraqi capital. The Iraqi capital has been -- all of the checkpoints around Baghdad have been closed. It's also been in the dark since Wednesday 9:00 p.m. local time, and electricity was cut off. Not clear if deliberately by the Iraqi authorities, or whether the result of a missile affecting the electricity grid. But definitely the big question now, as the rhetoric that is being propagated now by the Iraqi government through Iraqi TV starts to be at odds with the realities on the ground. Well, the big question now is, what happens next? -- Aaron.
BROWN: Rym, I'm not sure if you can see these pictures or now. We're looking at Baghdad now. Walt Rodgers not long ago described it is as a blue sky day, but there is this haze over the city that is the smoke from the bombing. And all of that is going on at the airport. Rym, it is inconceivable, isn't it, that the people of that city don't know that their government is not telling them the truth when it says the Americans are not near?
BRAHIMI: Well, very possible indeed, Aaron. People in Baghdad do not have access to satellite dishes or to international news, except some of them through international radio stations. And they would be spreading the word probably. So despite what they're being told on the Iraqi TV, a lot of people will have a pretty good idea that the U.S. forces have taken Saddam international airport. With that said, there would still be fear, even maybe for some of them going out or manifesting any change in their behavior for the moment, until they know for sure what's happening.
They have been given very strict instructions by members of the ruling Baath party, not to leave their homes once their campaign. And, of course. They're now just going to wait it out and see what happens. Especially after president Saddam Hussein came out on Iraqi TV, and said that was he was calling on people to fight with their hands, but also indicating we haven't used yet a third of our forces to fight yet. Indicating maybe there is still a lot of surprises left in Baghdad. -- Aaron.
BROWN: Rym, thank you. Rym Brahimi in Amman, Jordan, keeping track of the events in Baghdad.
You can see the Iraqi capital on this Friday morning. You can only imagine, can you, 5,000 -- rather five million or so residents of that city what they must be thinking on this Friday? They must know, they must hear the sounds coming from locations like that, only 12 or 14 miles away from them that the American-led army, the American coalition. These are all American troops now, the British are farther to the south, are knocking at the door. We'll take a break. Our coverage continues in a moment.
BROWN: The most trusted name in news. Is what he meant to say.
Time to check morning papers from around country, and perhaps around the world. We will see how it goes. Pretty much the same lead to be honest, no matter where you live, or if you're on the road, if are traveling and the "USA Today" arrives at your door, that's what you will see. Baghdad Airport swarmed. Regimes power diminished. And then it's the weekend edition of "USA Today." So, they always play the sports pretty high and the final four. It is one of those things, I hope you all out there who are sports fans have gotten a chance to spend some time thinking about that, too. It's not -- life in fact goes on.
The "Boston Herald," terrific picture, and the headline is "Give it up" in the "Boston Herald." The picture of some surrenders going on. I will hold that up for you a little bit. And confident Bush, vise closing in on Saddam Hussein. The president visited the marines today. "San Francisco Chronicle." I had a guest on the program from the "Chronicle" a little earlier. "U.S. Attacks Airport in Fight for Capital." We'll go through pretty quickly here. So stay with me.
The two papers in Detroit, the "Detroit News" first, for no particular reason, "The U.S. Tightens Vise on Saddam's Regime." And also a story of a local radio station over here getting fined because their shock jocks shocked a bit top. "Detroit Free Press," "The Other Key Airport Seized." So, they made that in theirs. The "Red Streak," which is one of the two additions of the "Chicago Sun-times," publishes "Lights Out." And the "Chicago Sun Times" itself, "U.S. Reaches Airport: Baghdad in Dark." And the weather, as we always try and point out in the "Sun-Times," "Take Cover," against the rain tomorrow in Chicago, but you never know. We'll take a break.
Our coverage continues with an update of the headlines from Daryn Kagan after this.
KAGAN: I'm Daryn Kagan live in Kuwait City.
Let's take a look at the latest headlines from this hour, including some extraordinary images from a site very close to the Iraqi capital. Right now, they are battling Iraqis from Baghdad Saddam Hussein Airport, just a dozen miles from the heart of the city. Reuters quotes one top U.S. commander as saying, quote, "We control the airport." Iraqis have been trying to stop the American tanks by attacking with dump trucks, and pickup, and so-called suicide buses loaded with Iraqi soldiers. Embedded CNN correspondent, Walter Rodgers says commanders have told them no U.S. casualties since the push for the airport began.
Southeast of Baghdad to the city of Kut now, where two U.S. Marines were killed in door in door fighting today. Other combat took place there as well including where one incident where some well-armed Iraqis staged on ill-fated charge on some coalition tanks. A commander says, quote, "they were mowed down."
Experts trying to figure out whether recent footage of Saddam Hussein was shot before or after the war stared are said to be focusing on details in the background. Specifically they're trying to decipher some grainy images being broadcast on a television screen in the room. If they can determine exactly what they're looking at, they say they may be able to find out when it was aired.
The father of rescued POW Jessica Lynch says his daughter is in great spirits after undergoing surgery on her back on Thursday. Gregory Lynch, Sr. says that doctors have told him that there is no evidence his daughter suffered any gunshot or stab wounds during her ordeal. Surgery on her broken limbs is scheduled for today.
Aaron, back to you.
BROWN: Daryn, thanks. I think in the days ahead, we will learn more and more about what happened to Private First Class Jessica Lynch. Don't go way Daryn, come back.
Morning paper... KAGAN: I am not going anywhere.
BROWN: OK, I know you are not actually. You have a lot work in the day yet ahead. Morning papers from there.
KAGAN: Real quickly. This is from the "Arab Times." This shows kind of how more difficult to be in the newspaper business these days. "Baghdad Battles In Darkness." Of course, they are a few hours behind of what we are able to see live here on CNN. And then the "Kuwait Times," the headline "Baghdad's Dark Hour," and the picture showing near Basra some Iraqi men are escorted and questioned by the Army, the Desert Rats as they enter the city of Basra.
And then this picture right here, actually we're going to go to some video. This is a rally here in Kuwait City that I covered myself last night, Aaron. Fascinating rally. Thousands of Kuwaitis showing up to show their support for what is taking place as a pro-coalition rally. It was organized by the Kuwaiti Lawyers Association and also the Student Association. They brought out all of these people. There was poetry reads, there were speeches, a number of signs, Kuwaitis from all ages.
And just one other note. I've been getting a lot of viewer e- mail, people wondering how things work here in Kuwait. I thought this was just a little interesting note, Aaron. Word of this rally spread through cell phones. Text messaging goes crazy here and I can show you just from my own cell phone right here what we got the night before the rally. Your phone beeps and you see this "To support Kuwait, let us gather at Flag Square from five to 7 p.m. on April 3. And that being last night, Thursday night. Already Friday morning here in Kuwait City.
So that's how you spread word of a rally in Kuwait, text message.
BROWN: And everyone does have a cell phone there. They may not all have Mercedes, so it sometimes seems that way but they sure do all have cell phones.
KAGAN: But they have the phone.
BROWN: Thank you Daryn.
Daryn and Anderson Cooper will anchor the rest of morning starting in about half an hour from now and we hope you will stay with them.
Here is the scene and the focus of the night has been Saddam International Airport, 12 miles outside the city of Baghdad, the capital. American forces have taken it. They have taken control of it, but that is quite different from saying there is no risk yet. But they do have control of the airport proper it seems.
This on a night that Baghdad itself spent in darkness, whether that was the coalition's doing, the American's doing, or whether that was the regime's doing is remains unclear. In any case, the focus has been this charge up to you airport itself to control it. To control it without destroying it. And now to work out from the airport, to clear it out. To make sure it is safe. And it is clearly not yet safe.
Our correspondent Walt Rodgers who is traveling with the 7 Calvary and has been reporting for us. These are live pictures from about this location a few kilometers back observed, Oh, 45 minutes or so ago. Maybe a little less than that. A fight, a tank exchange in the area and this is how he reported it to the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALT RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): We know of at least one fight trying to punch its way through the U.S. 7 Calvary's lines. Again, the tanks are rushing forward again to engage the Iraqi tanks. The U.S. tanks generally have longer range on their guns. So, before the Iraqis get within threatening distance, what we're seeing of course, is them being taken out like the hulk of the burned out tank and the armored personnel carrier we have been showing you -- Michael.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
He was broadcasting -- the Michael he referred to is the CNNI -- CNN International anchor he's conversing with when he reported this a few minutes back. And they were having some sort of exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RODGERS: Well, I hate to call -- contradict my dear colleague Nic Robertson, but we have civilians as we have traveled north of the Euphrates and throughout much of day and evening last night. The Iraqis are staying fairly close to their homes even though the -- the Iraqi soldiers are using those homes as screens.
The women hanging their wash-out lines and we can see last night at dusk just after a very, heavy fire fight. We could see an Iraqi shepherd herding his sheep back a sheep coat or a small corral of some sort. So, while some of the Iraqis may have left their homes I suspect many others haven't had a place that they can go and despite the fighting around them, many of them are staying even though the Iraqi irregular, the Iraqi military irregulars are trying to use their homes as cover, if you will, screens to protect them -- Michael.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Again, this was how Walt Rodgers reported it on CNN international. There are a number of CNN networks, and they don't always carry the same programming at the same time. Sometimes they do and CNNI is the seen around the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RODGERS: I am not exactly sure what you are looking at now. If you are seeing a smoldering vehicle, that is an armored personnel carrier. Which was taken out about three hours ago. It was part of the company vehicles, which came in the direction of the 7 Calvary. The shooting you hear over my left shoulder, about 40 millimeters -- 40 meters away is the .25-millimeter gun on the Bradley gun. We can see it shooting back our left. Back to our left are some farm buildings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: And the sound breaks out there. I don't know if that's the end of the report and if Walt's going to be able to join us, but all of -- these are live pictures now. Now, you see some movement in the area.
Walt, how long ago did you file that report for CNNI?
RODGERS: I guess about 45 minutes, but within the past two- minute, we've been under fire again. I heard an RPG just whistling in the air above our heads. Of course, it was traveling so fast we couldn't see it. But whoever fired that had to be closer than 700 yards to where we are; because 700 yards, 700 meters is the approximate range of the RPG's.
And then another shot whistled over our heads just a few seconds ago. So, the 7 Calvary continues to be under fire. About 45 minutes ago, the Iraqis launched yet another tank attack against the 7 Calvary. It was a bit of a surprise. At least one tank up in the distance is burning. I can see it a great big, billowing cloud of black smoke. And then off to our left, there were a number of other tanks.
We've since been told that in the past hour, the 7 Calvary has on its own, knocked out seven Iraqi tanks and armored vehicles. This in a rather serious fight. You could hear some of the shooting in that previous report I filed with CNNI. The Bradley fighting vehicles using their TOW wire guided missiles against the Iraqi tanks and of course then the main battle tanks that the 7 Calvary has shooting away at them.
But again, in the last half hour, six Iraqi tanks knocked out. The Iraqis are not out of business, however. Again within the past two minutes we have heard RPGs fighting right over our heads. You can hear them going, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) right over the heads. We don't know how high up there are but it's a fairly low trajectory.
Additionally, the 7 Calvary continues to hold its position. Overnight, it claims to have killed over 400 Iraqi soldiers. And those -- some of those in suicide attacks on the convoy. There was an earlier Iraqi convoy-armored column that moved against the 7 Calvary. Again, a combination of the 7 Calvary tanks and armored vehicles in combination with the U.S. Air Force took out tens Iraqi tanks.
So, by my count, at least 16 Iraqi tanks and armored vehicles have been "killed," is the word the Army uses, in the last three and a half to four hours -- Aaron.
BROWN: What sort of distances are these battles takes place? Are you talking a quarter of a mile? A half a mile? Three miles? What are we talking about? RODGERS: Quarter of a mile, sometimes, sometimes farther. But we have seen some of the Iraqis come up to within 100 meters of road before they were shot down. We can see more tanks coming up the road behind us now. They'll pass through our frame in a few minutes. But this continues to be a hostile and hot free fire zone -- Aaron.
BROWN: That's pretty evident by what has been going on and what we can hear. And this has been going on now for at least the last four hours right?
RODGERS: That's correct, although I think there were sporadic fighting prior to that throughout the night here. We could see mortars going out as a matter of fact, we parked our vehicle about 50 yesterdays half the length a football field from 120-millimeter mortar battalion, and when that thing goes off, the ground shakes. And the 120-millimeter mortars were shooting all night long, for all intents and purposes. As I say, it's been a running fight, intermittent somewhat; but when they are shooting, it's very, very intense -- Aaron.
BROWN: And no casualties to report with the people that you've been traveling with now for more than two weeks, 7 Calvary? You see some of the tanks moving.
RODGERS: That's correct. That's correct, Aaron. To the best of our knowledge and we check regularly. There have been no casualties with the U.S. Army's 7 Calvary. Certainly not with the Apache troop, the troop with which we have been embedded. A troop is a company size unit.
The Army has because of the increasing number of tanks the Iraqis are sending down the road in our general direction; just reinforced with yet more tanks and another fighting vehicle. So again, the situation here remains, I don't want to say threatening, but the Iraqis have not stopped sending tanks or suicide vehicles in the general direction of Apache troop for the last four plus hours -- Aaron.
BROWN: Walt, hang on. General Wesley Clark joins us on the telephone tonight. General's been traveling, but has been paying attention.
General, good to hear your voice.
GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Nice to talk to you, Aaron. I'm just amazed. I am watching this shot that Walt Rodgers is showing us here. And I recall a couple of week ago when we talked about this moment might arrive when we would see these troops under combat. This is an incredible moment to watch an armor battle like this in progress.
BROWN: It seems in some ways, General, like it was months ago. It was two weeks ago that we watched this group, Apache group come in and cross the desert. The grainy pictures moving across the desert. And there was a sense of -- I wouldn't say excite, probably not the word but adrenaline certainly was flowing as they crossed the border. And now we see them close to the end of their journey. They're just 12 miles or 14 miles or so from the airport.
You want to comment now on sort of where we are, General? What we might expect in the next day or two days or three?
CLARK: Well, this is -- I guess you would call this moderate resistance. As they're moving up the road, what we haven't been able to see is a well-prepared defensive position. Presumably, we're dealing with the tanks and the infantry vehicles and infantrymen who have escape the pounding from the air. Perhaps these vehicles were camouflaged back in buildings or under trees and they couldn't be seen.
But what is striking to me is the deliberate pace of movement, the skill of the troops in the 3-7 Cav in dealing with this enemy. The fact they are observing and over watching each other and they are obviously, their gunnery is very good.
BROWN: We've got a couple of minutes here before we have to break away.
Do you have any sense that this is the last major armored resistance that the Iraqis can put up? Or might we expect to see more of this over the next several days?
CLARK: I think it is really unpredictable Aaron, because tanks in street fighting in cities can be enormously powerful. And it would be surprising to me if there aren't some armored vehicles that have been pulled back into Baghdad. On the other hand, the collapse of these Republican Guard divisions has been sufficiently rapid. That we just can't predict what kind of level of resistance that we would Baghdad. Maybe it'll be prepared, maybe really tough. But maybe it won't be.
And so I think this is a case where, as this squadron is doing, out troops have to advance, prepared to fight (AUDIO GAP) reconnaissance force. If they get through without a fight, then they get through if they have to fight. They've got all the wherewithal to do it. And we probe, we exploit and we push until we finish this conflict.
BROWN: General, stay to the line, if you will. We are glad hear from you.
We'll also put one more voice now into the mix. Martin Navias is a defense analyst for the Center of Strategic Studies at Kings College London.
It's good to have you with us, sir.
Care to take a stab at the question of the moment, which is how well and how -- with how much discipline will the Republican Guard fight the end game?
MARTIN NAVIAS, DEFENSE ANALYST, KINGS COLLEGE: Well, the one thing that we do know is that in the last war in the 1991 war, the Republican Guard stood and fought. They were deployed around about Basra, in the south of the country. They were hit slam on by American and British armor, together with air power. And they didn't collapse. They stood their ground. They fired back. In some instances in a number of small engagements, they actually advanced under severe fire.
So, they only surrendered once their equipment had been destroyed. So our past experience of these elite units is that they won't just throw up their hands and they will stand and fight. The question is what will they do if they are deployed in cities where they can defend themselves and can put themselves into good positions?
BROWN: And what do you think they'll do?
NAVIAS: Well, it all depends how successful the bombing was. Now clearly the Republican Guard, the Hammurabi and the Medina Divisions were deployed against the Third Infantry and the Calvary. But they are not there anymore, the question is have they been destroyed by bombing or have they withdrawn into the city. And if they have withdrawn into the city, was it an ordinarily planned withdrawal or it was a route?
Now, on the basis of our past experience with the Iraqi Republican Guard, and on the basis of our past experience of bombing, we must suspect that at least some elements of these elite units have withdrawn into the cities. And on the basis of a strategic analysis, it makes no sense for the Iraqis to stay in the open and engage the Americans in any large numbers.
Their strongest position must be to draw the Americans and allies into the cities and to fight them there and give them their best chance. And I suspect there will be some members of the Republican Guard, and certainly many members of the Iraqi Special Republican Guard that wish to fight.
BROWN: General Clark, weigh in on that. The Special Republican Guard is quite different. It's more of a militia or enforcers or thugs or people very loyal to Saddam but not especially well-trained in military tactics.
CLARK: I think the odds are that there will be a fight in the city. It's -- it's been surprising to me that there was as much equipment left in the open by the Republican Guard and vulnerable to our air power as actually happened. But apparently some is left, and it would be surprising if there weren't a fight in Baghdad.
If Saddam really is missing in action, if he really is not there, if the bombing campaign worked well, if we continue to grind away their command and control and disrupt them, maybe we can undercut the resistance.
But some of these guys really are hard-core. They've committed a lot to the regime. And even though the Iraqi military is not in the kind of pristine condition it was in in 1990-91, a lot of the leadership is no doubt the same. And so I think we have to be prepared for a tough fight.
BROWN: It strikes me with little I have learned I suppose or as much as a have learned over the last couple of weeks about military strategy, the Americans have a couple of choices to make. And the one they seem to be wanting to make is a slow methodical taking of the city rather than a kind of headlong, blow it away Dresden taking of the city. Is that your view, or do you see it differently?
NAVIAS: Well, no, I agree with you Mr. Brown. I think the Americans will wait for a build up their forces. They need more heavy infantry to come up to Baghdad. They need to surround the city properly. And they can look to the British experience in the south of country at Basra.
What the British are doing around Basra a slow and I believe subtle and sophisticated technique to squeeze the Iraqi resistance in that city. The British have adopted a policy of what they call "raid in aid." That is they are mounting swift operations into the city to locate and neutralize Iraqi positions, while at the same time, they are working on the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.
I mean one of the major problems that British are encountering in Basra is the experience of the 1991 war...
BROWN: All right.
NAVIAS: The Iraqi civilian population just do not believe that we are going to be there and protect them against Saddam Hussein. And by working both the hearts and the minds and the military campaign, slowly but surely the Iraqis control of that city is being reduced. And they will be removed. This I think is at least probably better than as you say a headlong rush with all that would involve with civilian and American casualties in Baghdad.
BROWN: General, Walt Rodgers can hear you. You always see the pictures somewhat differently than we do with your experienced eye. Anything you want to ask, Walt.
CLARK: Well, Walt we are looking -- in a single direction here. And I would assume of course that there's a battle that's going on a broader than a one tank front. And so there must be some mutual support between these vehicles. We have got helicopters overhead. We have got all of however combat elements here engaged, do we not?
RODGERS: Yes and no, General. Your impressions in reading the situation has been spot on. We do need to say however, this is more than a single tank on tank. This is a troop, which as you know in Calvary is a company of tanks. A company of fighting vehicle, I have to be careful about the number of vehicles involved. But there is coordinated engagement by all vehicles. Such that when the Iraqis sent out a counterattack about an hour ago, six tanks were put out of existence very, very quickly.
Having said that, we are not seeing the Kiowa reconnaissance helicopters and the 7 Calvary is not get anything support from the Apaches and this addresses goes to the point of you were discussing a few moment ago. The closer this unit pushes into Baghdad, the more the resistance becomes. It's not the Republican Guard units but the Iraqis are fighting and fighting very strongly, setting up ambushes alongside the road.
And as you get close to the suburbs of the city, the Army is very concerned the Iraqis are going to set up Surface-to-Air missiles, shoulder to fire missiles in apartment building and other buildings. So, consequently, they are keeping the helicopters out.
There is coordination. This is your standard Calvary troop moving forward or at least holding its position, which is its assignment. But again, no helicopters. It's simply too dangerous, the closer you get to Baghdad for those helicopters.
Again, confirming what you have been suggesting that there is going to be a devil to pay of a street fight, as these units get closer -- Aaron.
BROWN: Walt, thank you.
General, if you can hang around for another couple of minutes. We'll get some thoughts from you as we end our stay here.
We need to take a break first. Our coverage continues here on CNN in just a moment.
BROWN: We are going to step aside here for Daryn Kagan and Anderson Cooper to take you through the rest of the morning. General Clark will join us again tomorrow. We will leave with you the day, at least our portion, a busy and dangerous day for coalition forces across Iraq. And by extension of course the correspondents who are embedded with them. Here is a sample of the work, our correspondents filed today.
RODGERS: I believe our camera cameraman Charlie Miller is pointing in the direction a T-72 Iraqi tank, which is still burning slightly. It was knocked out within the last two hours. Behind that is a BMP an armor personnel carrier, there is an Iraqi soldier lying dead in the road by the BMP and another one who was killed in the turret of this T-72 tank.
It's dawn here in Iraq in the suburbs of Baghdad. We are not far from the Baghdad airport. The Saddam Hussein Airport. And for the last several hours, there has been an attempted counterattack by an Iraqi tank company. It was a bad decision, as one Iraqi -- excuse me, as one U.S. Army soldier told us, "400 Iraqis made a very bad decision in the last 24 hours." That bad decision was that they came out and tried to tackle the U.S. Army's 7 Calvary.
SAVIDGE: we are reporting to you from the central Iraq. Last time, let me tell you what happened, the 1 Battalion 7 Marines were able to secure the al Numania Air Base, formerly an Iraqi Air Force base. It is safe to say no longer in the hands of the Iraqis, now under the control of coalition forces and since that time, able to continue to push on. What is happening right now is there is a heavy barrage of outgoing artillery fire. This coming from Marines themselves.
(on camera): The U.S. Marines have now secured the key city of al Kut. It was the Baghdad Division of the Republican Guard that was headquartered in this particular region. However, no indications of heavy fighting but certainly if you take a look over here, all of the indications of a clear U.S. military Marine build-up.
CHILCOTE: We have some exclusive pictures. Our cameraman, Greg Denilenka (ph) just went out with one of the companies of soldiers out here where they found a weapons cache right in the middle a school. Take a look at these pictures. They are really going to shock you.
Acting on a tip from some people here in the city, they went to this school. They didn't know when whether just going to be weapons or whether they were going to find some Fedayeen fighters in the school as well. Well, they didn't find any Fedayeen fighters but they certainly did find a lot of weapons, a lot of RPG rounds a lot of mortar rounds. Just a lot of weapons in general.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These are the bombs that are used in F-16 aircraft. These are called ABU-10's; they are made in Oklahoma but they come to the Persian Gulf disassembled and to do the assembly. And this is where they have to do the assembling, in this bomb dump at this base near the border of Iraq.
This is Airman First Class Whitney Howery (ph), actually sitting on the bomb assembling it.
Thanks for joining us. What are doing right now?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm installing the fuse initiator.
TUCHMAN: Now, that's fuse initiator is right there you are saying. And what does that do?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It initiates the fuse that we have installed in the rear of the bomb.
TUCHMAN: How did you get in this work assembling bombs?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I chose the career field of ammo.
TUCHMAN: Is there a risk to it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not really.
TUCHMAN: You don't feel in danger when you're sitting on a bomb like this that you're assembling?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, not until we get it completely assembled.
TUCHMAN: And then you feel it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just a little bit.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONENT: It's certainly been an interesting experience for me. Certainly being a journalist and also a doctor, neurosurgeon. When I spent some time with the Devil Docs earlier, one of the things that they had told me was they didn't have any neurosurgical capability. And they said if a patient were to come in that needed such an operation would I be willing to help? They asked me that question.
Today that actually happened. It was just a few hours ago. They came up to me and said a 2-year-old child has a gunshot wound or a shrapnel wound with great significance to the head. Would I be willing to come take a look at the patient and take the patient to the operating room? Medically and morally I thought that was the right thing do.
This child was in what we call in the medical lingo, "extremis." Meaning that at the time that I saw the patient a few minutes to really only to live. The outcome of operation was the child did die after the operation. Despite our effort but this something that we attempted to try to save the life of this child through the operation. I was asked to help out. Medically and morally I thought it was the right thing do.
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